My review of the Novation ReMOTE SL keyboard/control surface is in the current issue of Keyboard and free online. Here’s a taste at how I approached the review:

Music stores and closets alike are full of controller keyboards aimed for use with software. Most seem identical save for a set of drum pads here and a free plug-in there. The variety of options and generally low cost is great, but the keyboards themselves (you know, the black and white bits) often seem like afterthoughts. And adding and subtracting knobs and controllers seems to miss the point: What we really want isn’t just more or different controls, but ones that are better integrated with our favorite music software.

Novation’s ReMote SL line aims to be different on both points, with hardware that feels like an instrument, and intelligent â€Å“Automapâ€Â? capabilities to save us from the drudgery of programming MIDI assignments one-by-one. So, is this finally the MIDI keyboard you’ll keep for years into the future?


Automap is the major selling point of the SL, but it was still a work in progress as I tested it — useful, but not without some significant issues, depending on which host you’re using. (Fortunately, you can go back to the old-fashioned approach of building your own templates if you like, and you will find there are cases where that’s a better idea anyway, in terms of customizing the keyboard to your needs.)

Now the good news: having worked with the Live 6 beta and my ReMote SL 37, many of these issues are — as promised — being addressed by Ableton in the upcoming release. That’s terrific news, as I think Live probably tops the list for the Automap desires of potential and current SL owners. For instance, Live can wait until you’ve moved a control past its previous position before changing the value, solving the problem of jumping faders and knobs on non-motorized control surfaces. (If that didn’t make any sense, just try it; you’ll see what I mean.) I don’t want to comment further until the finished Live 6 is out (though you can read more about this publicly on the Ableton forums, as always). But you can expect some new power tricks combining the SL and Live 6, some of which I’ll happily share soon. I don’t think you’ll ever eliminate the need for custom templates, but there are some interesting new possibilities for adding automatic mappings when they make sense.

As always, let me know what you think of the review, particularly if you’ve tried an SL yourself. And I can’t overstate how much I like the feel of the keyboard itself, all this Automap aside. Even on synth action keyboards, feel makes a huge difference. Try getting hands-on time if you can if you’re considering buying a new keyboard; it’s always worth it, because these things really are personal. Note that the ReMote is also available in 25- and 61-key flavors, as well as a control surface alone. The latter I’m not as crazy about because I like the keyboard and X/Y controllers at a small price premium, but if you’re tight on space, it could be useful.

Keyboard Review: ReMote 37

  • velocipede

    Nice news about Live and automapping, Peter. I wanted to complement you on keeping this site on top of the latest developments in the human meets music meets machine equation. Convenience is good, but feel is so important in making the connection between the three, isn't it?

    I still see an SL in my future, but, partially thanks to your review and your advice on these forums, and having a lovely X-Station already, I spent my expendable expenditures on an entirely different beast. I'll see if the 10 fingers on my hands can realize its full sonic capabilities and get back to you later.

  • Kevin

    Great review. I'm using the old Novation keyboard, the Remote 25 with Apple Logic, Ableton Live, and Reason. However, I'm using Remote 25 in conjunction with the LCXmu software (http://www.opuslocus.com/lcxmu/). This software emulates the Logic Control/Mackie Control protocol.

    So, the question is whether the SL is worth it over the Remote 25 w/Logic Control?

    I'd be interested in an article that explores that comparison.

  • velocipede

    Kevin, I am using an X-Station and have asked myself similar questions. A visit to the Remote SL Yahoo Group shows that some folks are not that impressed with Automap, especially with Logic . . . yet. You might want to ask your question there. Everyone seems to rave about the keys themselves and it seems that those are the same since the original Remote.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Sneaking in from Aspen … Automap still has the potential to be really terrific. Logic is awaiting an updated template, but the existing implementation is at least decent — and, depending on how you *use* Logic, could be a big help. Live's new implementation is terrific.

    I think the SL could be worthwhile as a *second* keyboard in addition to an X-Station or original ReMOTE. I can't see getting rid of those keyboards to get it. On the X-Station, the rationale would be if you prefer the SL's controller layout to the X-Station's and don't need the built-in X-Station synth.

    It's also worth noting that the SL is a significant improvement upon the layout of the original ReMOTE, and, for the way I use it at least, is more useful as a controller than the X-Station. All of these make it a strong step forward, even without Automap. It's not just implementation of Automap, either, it's the fundamental problem that there will always be times where you want to custom-assign rather than auto-assign controls. All of this I tried to cover in the review, but happy to discuss further, especially after having continued to use (and like) my SL since writing the review.

  • Kevin

    What about ReWire? Frequently, i like to have Reason or Live running as a ReWire slave in Logic. How does the automapping handle the ReWire objects in Logic? Can you control the parameters of Reason synths from Logic with the automapping function?

    Kevin

  • http://www.pixel82.comwww.myspace.com/pixel82 Filipe

    Definatly Im drooling about the new remote. Owning myself a Remote 25 which I love to death I believe this may a solution for lots of problems.

    Unfortunally it does not have motorized faders which would be great for the studio.

    The big issue is: Does automapping really works properlly? I have a friend who bought one and says as well that the logic implementation is pretty basic. I dunno maybe Ill keep my remote 25 and just get a couple behringer bfc and use them under mackie control emulation.

    Filipe

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  • dirtyoldtown

    i've just got into using Ableton Live 6 from previously using CubaseSX. so i'm currently going through all the tutorials and trying to get my head around the program.

    I've switched for its 'live performance' capabilities and being able to tweak stuff on the fly rather than Cubase's linear timetrack.

    Ive been looking for devices to be able to help me play my stuff live. i'll mostly just be triggering samples and tweaking effects etc so had been looking at TriggerFinger and Akai's MPD24 for their pads, sliders and knobs.

    I also wouldnt mind a little portable keyboard so i can take it out from studio and 'sketch' on the road too. a friend suggested the KorgMicroKontrol … and i've now been reading up about this ReMote SL.

    I've heard that the Korg Microcontrol is completely compatible with Ableton but from your review of the SL it seems to have problems …

    i noticed on the Novation site there are software updates from 14-July-2006, i take it you are talking after you installed these?

    this newbie is looking for tips / reccomendations / suggestions for what to go for if anyones got any – cheers.

  • Lime

    This string went dead just as it was getting good. I've heard that the keys on the SL were sub-par. If you still read this Peter, how is everythign holding up so far? Would the buttons be reasonable to use as sample triggers? I'm worried about the quality of this unit more than anything… What is the final word, after months of use?

    Thanks,

    Emil

  • http://www.prajnaji.com prajnaji

    I've been using a Remote SL 25 for the last month. I sold off my 49 key Korg Kontrol 49, cuz the novation feels to me to be a way better keyboard. The automapping works fabulous in Reason and Live, albeit a little touchy with Logic. (It seems every issue I have is with Logic these days) It's built well, it feel solid. The grade of plastic is way better than the Korg. The feel of the keys is superb. I am spending more time making music than messing with the keyboard, and that makes me happy. = )

  • http://www.nuthinbutrespect.com Cetra

    @Lime- I'm not sure who told you the keys on the SL are "Sub-Par" but I can tell you from a owner of a 61key remote sl's perspective that comment is not true. The keys on this controller are great, it's def they best option for a controller imo and that's why I chose it after reviewing almost every other board I could get my hands on first.

  • http://www.myspace.com/totalharmoniccontrol Total Harmonic Contr

    i've been using a remote25SL for the past year…and it is without a shadow of a doubt, the best featured midi controller i've ever used. the keys are semi weightrd and feel excellent, has aftertouch as well as velocity, has a touchpad style XY controller. automap works brilliantly between both reason 3.0.5 and ableton live 6.0.7. even plugins are supported (various VSTi's) and it switches all the knobs to match the plugin that u currently have selcted.

    Brilliant

    10/10